Fire Department


Settlers ventured into the great falls of the Tar River area around 1734. Because of its Rocky terrain it was later referred to as the “rocky mound”. The first post office was established in 1816 and the area was officially named Rocky Mount. The town was incorporated in 1867 and at that time the twin county city of Nash and Edgecombe was divided at the Tar River. It may only be assumed that fire fighting was accomplished by primitive means and that no formal means of fire protection existed for the community.

The Department

On October 8, 1894 Mayor T. H. Battle appointed town councilmen H. T. Bauman and J. C. Braswell to “canvass the town and ascertain if a Volunteer fire company could be organized”. The department’s first organized fire company was approved by the town Council on March 11, 1896. The fire company consisted of 26 African American men. Mr. C. C. McIntyre was the foreman. They were known as The “Colored Fire Company” and operated a ladder wagon and bucket Brigade from the 100 block of East Thomas Street. The department achieved Its official charter on August 6, 1896 along with its first fire chief J. R. Bissette. The first fire station was located at the corner of Sunset Avenue and Sorby’s Alley. The building was large enough to hold the steamer engine, meeting Room and area for the mule to stay that pulled the steamer engine.

Water Supply

According to fire insurance maps of the town from 1885 to 1896 water supplies for fire fighting were not adequate. In 1896 the department’s first Fire Chief had the town dig water cisterns for fire fighting in target areas of Town. In 1901 Rocky Mount’s first water works system was in place. The Stony Creek was characterized as an inexhaustible water supply. The gravity and direct pressure system had a daily consumption of 100,000 gallons a day.

First Fire Apparatus

It is believed the first piece of fire apparatus purchased was a man-drawn ladder wagon purchased on April 8, 1895 for $355.00. The first and only Steamer engine the department has was purchased on July 14, 1896 for $2600.00. The steamer was an 1878 fifth size Silsby. A mule and man drawn hose reel was purchased along with the steamer. In 1914 the department received its first motorized piece of fire fighting apparatus. The new engine was a 1914 American La France chemical wagon. This dramatically improved the efficiency of the department’s capability in the response to the alarm and the attack of the fire.

Growth of the Department

From the 1950s through the 1980s the department grew from two fire stations to five fire stations. A third 24 hour shift of personnel was added in 1974 to handle the workload. The fire prevention and training departments also expanded to meet the needs of the department and the city. In May of 1982 the Insurance Service Organizations upgraded the department from the current class 4 to class 3 rating. In 1990 the department grew in size again by relocating its fire station three and building an additional fire Station six. A two district concept was developed to provide lower response times to areas within the city. In March of 2000 the department began to deliver emergency medical first responder services, the same year new fire station four was opened. The new Life Safety and Emergency Management complex was completed in 2002. In 2003 the department’s fire museum and fire station seven opened. On August 21, 2003 the department became an Internationally Accredited Agency by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International Inc. In May of 2010 the department was upgraded by the Insurance Service Organization to a class 2 department. In August of 2020, the department received an improved Public Protection Class (PPC) rating of Class 1,
the highest possible rating. By achieving PPC 1 and maintaining its International Accreditation status since 2003, RMFD becomes part of an elite, but small group across the country to do so. These achievements place the city’s fire department in the top two-tenths of one percent of all fire departments in the United States.

Fire Department Services


Emergency Management

Emergency Notifications

Fire Inspections & Plans Review


Programs & Information

Public Education Request

Records Request